Wanna change the world? Wanna lose those five pounds, strengthen community ties, get to lunch on time and save thousands of dollars?
Oh. Okay. Well…well then riddle me this: what’s good for rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old, fat and thin—and our planet—that doesn’t involve starting a non-profit or burning bras or waving banners or wearing hemp necklaces with little abalone shells in ‘em?
The bi-cycle! This great new amazing invention that will change the world!
If you don’t have a bike, check out craigslist.org or go buy one from your local indie bikeshop. Get advice on what fits, and what you’re looking for: a road bike (Lance Armstrong) a cruiser (Leave it to Beaver) or a commuter (like my Bianchi Milano).
I’ve built my life around riding my bike. I live downtown, close to work and the Rec Center and groceries and bars and cafÃ©s. Still, when I ride way crosstown to 32nd to go to the rock climbing gym, I generally tie my friend, Graham Markel, driving his mom’s Audi.
TRAFFIC — no one likes traffic. It fosters aggression and impatience. But on a bike you can always flow one way or the other. Like Aesop’s bat, you’re neither bird nor beast. You can become a pedestrian or car at will, riding on the road or sidewalk and using crosswalks—you’re rarely stuck at a light. It may not be strictly legal, this ‘going with the flow,’ but, as with jaywalking, you won’t attract the attention of the 5-O unless you’re putting yourself or others in danger.
PARKING — it takes forever, and costs dough, and I don’t know about you, but when I used to drive every day I got a few pricey tickets a year. With a bike you just lock up right in front of The Kitchen, walk in for lunch, et voila: fresh motz local produce veggie sandwich with Dijon and Eldorado Springs artesian water followed by short capp, in and out in 45 minutes.
BOOZING — Drinking and driving? Bad. Very bad. But people do it all the time. So ride your bike to and from the bars. The fresh air helps at the end of the night, and if you fall over (which I’ve never done…) only you are the worse for it (…except that one time when I tried to ride through a gate with Pam Pedersen on the back of my bike, and missed). Of course, if you’re seeing double, take two cabs or sleep it off on your friends’ two couches, or your new friends’ two beds.
EXERCISE — You get a little bit, free, over the course of the day, every day, when you ride a bike. So spend less time Spinning or on the Elliptical or Stairmaster at the gym, and more time in the sauna and hot tub, reading wrinkly back issues of your favorite magazine.
TOTAL ENLIGHTENMENT — Awareness is the subject of ancient, fancy, high-falutent meditation practices. It’s also the day-to-day skill you’ll develop super-quick riding your bike. You don’t want to get in an argument with a car turning the wrong way—you’ll lose. I ride fast, and aggressive—still, I’ve grown eyes in the back of my head, and am able to ride defensively through it all. So far…
CONVENIENCE — Here’s where you’d think bikes lose out. But I say the opposite. They’re quick, they’re nimble, no parking etc. And add a pop-on-pop-off bike basket, and you can even bring along your gym clothes or pick up a bag’s worth (sans bag) of groceries. Parents: add a lightweight Burley trailer, and you can easily tow your babe or tot. I only need to drive my car once a month, on average—combining all big-haul/long-distance errands into one grocery shopping run/hardware store binge/long-distance excursion fest.
MAINTENANCE — A bike costs about $100 a year to keep ship-shape, if you’re as crazy about it as I am. A car costs insurance, and gas, and $1,000’s of dollars in maintenance. Additionally, most local bikeshops will do basic checkups for free, for life.
ROADS — They cost us billion$ a year in construction, maintenance and taxes. They’re also ugly. They take up lots of space. They’re everywhere. And animals can’t cross them and rain can’t get through ‘em and people get in accidents. They suck.
Conclusion? In my hometown, Boulder—with its bike paths and bike lanes and bike racks on buses—the Bike Rules. Still, cars are cool. You wanna go 100 miles to hot springs or the ski slopes, a bike ain’t gonna help you. You wanna buy a bunch of stuff (as we Americans generally want to do), a bike ain’t gonna help much. So let’s not go to extremes. Let’s just make biking a part of our life.